A top Biden administration official behind the Department of Energy’s (DOE) proposed regulatory crackdown on gas stoves said in congressional testimony on July 18 that she doesn’t know the details of electric stove installation.
Geraldine Richmond, the Department of Energy’s undersecretary for science and innovation, on July 18 testified before the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs during a hearing called “Canceling Consumer Choice: Examining the Biden Administration’s Regulatory Assault on Americans’ Home Appliances.”
During the hearing, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) addressed Ms. Richmond regarding a DOE notice of proposed federal rulemaking unveiled in February that would allow the agency to set new efficiency and conservation standards for home appliances, including gas stoves.
The proposed rule (pdf), which is meant to reduce emissions from household appliances, would affect at least half of new gas stove models sold in the United States and make most of the existing ones on the market noncompliant, according to Republicans on the subcommittee.
‘Not a Ban’?
During the hearing, Mr. Perry disputed Democrat claims that the DOE rule shouldn’t be referred to as a gas stove ban.
“I don’t know what kind of gas stove you have in your house … and to the gentlelady on the other side of the aisle, she says it’s not a ban [but] according to my figures, 4 percent of current gas stovetops available on the market today meet the rule, which means that 96 percent of them don’t,” Mr. Perry said.
The GOP lawmaker then said that many people on lower incomes wouldn’t be able to afford a new gas stove that’s compliant with the new rules and so would opt for an electric stove but pointed out that installing one could be costly.
“If you’re not making a lot of money, you can’t afford the expensive one that probably will meet it, so you’ve got to try and buy the other one,” he said, adding that he’s glad the DOE is getting people to save money by “forcing them to spend a bunch of money.”
Mr. Perry continued, “If you have a gas stove in your home right now, there’s a gas line coming to it and probably a 110 [volt electrical] connection.
“Do you know what it takes to put an electric stove in your home? Do you have any idea?”
“No, I don’t, but—” Ms. Richmond replied, and before she could elaborate, Mr. Perry cut her off.
“Here, I do! You got to run a 220 [volt] line. Which means you’re going to probably have to get an electrician because unless you know how to do that yourself, you’re playing with potentially losing your life and electrocuting yourself,” he said.
“You’re going to have to hire someone to come in and drill holes in your floor and pull wire to the panel and hook that whole thing up.”
He then asked whether Ms. Richmond had included installation costs for a new electrical line for an electric stove in the DOE’s estimated efficiency savings.
Mr. Perry added that such installation costs would be especially burdensome “for poor people, who are just happy to have a gas stove.”
Ms. Richmond replied by saying that the administration isn’t looking to force anyone to replace their existing stove with an electric one, prompting Mr. Perry to argue that when a person’s existing stove breaks down, he or she would be forced to buy a more expensive one that complies with the new rules.
“We’re strongly in favor of consumer choice,” Ms. Richmond began to say, with Mr. Perry interjecting, “Apparently not!”
Republicans on the committee argued that the DOE’s proposed appliance efficiency standards would be burdensome and costly for Americans, hitting lower-income families the hardest.
Ms. Richmond pushed back during the hearing on claims that the DOE’s proposed rulemaking amounts to a gas stove ban.
Democrats have taken issue with Republicans characterizing the proposed rulemaking as a path toward banning gas stoves.
“I just don’t quite understand the energy and hysteria almost in places about gas stoves,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in mid-June as the House was considering bipartisan legislation to prevent the federal government from banning gas stoves.
“No one is taking away your gas stove,” Ms. Schakowsky said. She was one of the Democrats who opposed the Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act, which sought to bar the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from banning gas stoves.
The measure ultimately passed the House by a 248–180 vote, with 29 Democrats ultimately joining their Republican colleagues in backing the measure.
The gas stove bill intends to shield the appliances from any new restrictions that would either ban them outright or lead to substantial increases in their price.
The gas stove furor traces back to CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr.’s comments to Bloomberg News in January regarding the possibility that gas stoves would be prohibited.
“This is a hidden hazard. Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” he said.
On Jan. 11, a White House spokesperson told CNN that President Joe Biden “does not support banning gas stoves.”
The spokesperson added that the CPSC, “which is independent, is not banning gas stoves.”
During the July 18 hearing, Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) recalled Mr. Trumka’s comments and said: “By the way, I love when we tell only half the story. Mr. Trumka, who obviously, you know, is just super important to folks here, came out afterward and clarified his comments and said that we are not coming to take anyone’s gas stoves away.”
Mr. Moskovitz then addressed Ms. Richmond, first apologizing for “this line of questioning” before saying: “When are you coming to take my gas stove away? And will I get a four-hour window? Like when Comcast comes to my house or the power company? Because I just want to be home when it happens because I have a dog and I don’t want him to be let out by accident. So what—can we schedule that now? When are you coming?”
His remarks drew laughter from Ms. Richmond, who replied: “I’m sorry for laughing, but I have two dogs and chickens, so. It’s OK. We’re not coming.”
However, despite repeated and vocal denials that federal authorities are mulling over a full-on gas stove ban, Mr. Trumka wrote in an internal memo that there was enough evidence for the CPSC to move ahead with a notice of proposed rulemaking to ban gas stoves.